On Wednesday, Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong met with the media for the second time since the start of fall camp on Monday and provided updates on the state of the team.
The major news was that Strong and his assistant coaches have moved into the dorms with the players for fall camp, another attempt by the new head coach to build unity with his team.
"Anytime you want to build a team you have to build togetherness," said Strong. "The reason why we stay in the dorms is now we have the whole team around with the offense on one floor and the defense on one floor."
When Strong arrived at Texas, he said that the entire team would be moving on-campus in the fall to better facilitate the togetherness that he preaches by helping the players get to know each other better.
"Then, during the day, each of them have a roommate so they can open up their doors and have guys walking down the hallway. It's about teamwork and working together and just getting guys together where they can find out who one another really is, because we don't really get that opportunity. A lot of older guys don't get a chance to know who the freshmen are, and now the freshmen can feel comfortable where they can walk into an upperclassman's room and feel good about it."
Ultimately, the goal is for the upperclassmen to take a large ownership role in mentoring the younger players, as junior running back Johnathan Gray said that he is doing with freshman Donald Catalon, citing his own experience needing help as a freshman.
And that's coming from one of the most mature players to enter the program in the last several years -- imagine how much help the average freshman needs to make that transition.
One of Strong's other efforts in fall camp is to instill pride in the program by removing the decals from the helmet. Even though Strong was positive in his comments about the team's progress, he's not ready to put the burnt orange Longhorns logo back on the white helmets just quite yet.
"There's a lot of pride in this program, and a lot of tradition in this program and the players understand that," he said. "There's a lot of guys that came out here and they poured sweat and everything they left on this field and that's what we're going to do and until we get that done, I'll let you know just how far we come, I'll decide to put it back when they understand the logo and just how important it is."
And though the press conference was a relatively short one, Strong did provide some other news of note.
As expected, there's currently no timetable for the return of senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley, who is dealing with yet another hamstring injury. On the more positive side, junior wide receiver Marcus Johnson was back practicing after his recent minor procedure. Strong also noted that he's as concerned about wide receiver depth as everyone else following the Shipley news.
With Johnson back as one of the starters, senior John Harris and sophomore Jacorey Warrick are the two other players working with the first team and represent the only players in the group that have any experience past Shipley and Johnson.
Is this the year that Harris finally steps up and shows the potential he demonstrated as a junior in high school? Will Warrick be able to use his remarkable quickness to shake defenders and become one of the players who can take a short hitch and turn it into a big gain?
It's something of a football truism that young players are more capable of contributing when they play further away from the ball. As a result, it's not a surprise to hear freshman John Bonney mentioned along with Jermaine Roberts at cornerback.
Despite being listed as a safety coming out of high school, Bonney has the experience and fluidity to play the position, even if he lacks ideal top-end speed. Roberts, meanwhile, uses his physicality and overall competitiveness to make up for his lack of ideal size. Both players may need to contribute this season with limited cornerback depth behind starters Quandre Diggs, a senior, and Duke Thomas, a junior.
Senior Sheroid Evans is still limited while recovering from the ACL tear that he suffered last fall, while redshirt freshman linebacker Deoundrei Davis is rehabbing from his own knee injury.
Back at safety, Strong said that sophomore walk-on Dylan Haines is still earning heavy reps with the first team. With scholarships now available following the dismissals, it wouldn't be a shock to see him pick up a scholarship during fall camp. At the least, he's increasingly seeming like a player who will receive a significant number of snaps this year.
Strong also revealed his nickname for sophomore defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway -- Green Mile, a movie reference to the extraordinarily muscular John Coffey, played by Michael Clarke Duncan. Revealing his sense of humor, Strong said that he teases Ridgeway about the nickname.
"Ridge is doing well," Strong said. "He's a really strong guy, a powerful, really a powerful pass rusher also. He has so much strength that he can take guys, once he get's locked on them he can just throw them out of the way."
None of that information is particularly new about Ridgeway -- it's easy to guess at his strength just looking at his physique. Bigger news would be talk of greater consistency from the former high school defensive end.
And, finally, Strong had praise for two of his young offensive linemen.
"[Kent] Perkins and [Jake] Raulerson are working really well, our whole offensive line is doing a really good job," Stong said. "Perkins is so strong, I think in the weight room he's the strongest person we have. He's such a big body inside and he can engulf you. If a guy tries to run inside, he can latch on. If he ever latches on, the defensive linemen don't have a chance. Jake is so versatile where he can play center, he can play any position, center, guard, tackle, so he's doing a really good job."
The news on the strength of Perkins is surprising since he's such a young player and definitely an indictment of the previous strength and conditioning program -- the strongest player on the team shouldn't have entered the program 14 months ago. However, it is good news for his ability to contribute inside.
As for Raulerson, finding another tackle in an unexpected place is excellent news for offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Wickline, who will be experimenting with a number of combinations this fall as he seeks to get his five best linemen on the field.